Head and Neck Cancers Coverage from Every Angle

Lifestyle Choices and Oral Cancer Screening

By: Dana A. Elya, MS, RD, CDN
Posted: Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Smokers and users of alcohol may be less likely than abstainers to self-report having an oral cancer examination over the past year, according to a U.S. population-based cross-sectional study published in BMC Public Health. Aderonke A. Akinkugbe, BDS, MPH, PhD, of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, and colleagues also concluded that access to affordable and targeted oral cancer examinations within the dental care setting might ensure that high-risk individuals receive timely examinations and earlier diagnoses, thereby possibly improving prognosis and survival outcomes.

A total of 9,374 participants of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2013 to 2016 were included in the study. There were 54% of nonsmoker patients, 58% were current alcohol consumers, and 62% had a dental visit in the past year. About one-third self-reported ever receiving an oral cancer examination, of which 66% received this examination in the past year. The majority (91%) of oral cancer examinations were found to be conducted by a dental care provider.

Current smokers were significantly less likely to report ever receiving an oral cancer examination than nonsmokers (odds ratio = 0.54). Former smokers had increased odds of receiving an oral cancer examination compared with nonsmokers (unadjusted odds ratio = 1.13). Current alcohol users were more likely to report ever receiving an oral cancer examination compared with abstainers (adjusted odds ratio = 1.26). Current and former smokers were found to be less likely to report having an oral cancer examination over the past year than nonsmokers (unadjusted odds ratio = 0.30).

“Educational initiatives including oral cancer screening continuing education programs may be needed to improve literacy surrounding oral cancer risk factors among health-care providers and patients. Furthermore, implementation of theory-based interventions may be necessary to improve general medical practitioner’s confidence, expertise, and knowledge in conducting opportunistic oral cancer screenings,” shared the authors.

Disclosure: The authors’ disclosure information can be found at bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com.


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